Three weeks ago, Uber rallied 400 drivers to testify in an employee classification lawsuit that they wanted to stay contractors.
Now, some of them have changed their minds. After speaking with Lichten & Liss-Riordan, the law firm representing the plaintiffs in the suit, six Uber drivers out of the 400 who originally testified on behalf of Uber have decided to speak against the ride-hailing company. They submitted new court declarations saying they were misled about the difference between contractors and employees.
If Uber loses the driver classification lawsuit, it may have to reclassify its California drivers as employees, which would cost it hundreds of millions in payroll taxes a year, not to mention back pay and penalties. The company’s business model rides on the outcome.
The fact that several drivers Uber recruited to support it have turned on the company is a symbolic undermining, one that questions the legitimacy of Uber’s testimonial gathering tactics.
“Very little about the lawsuit filed on behalf of drivers was explained to me,” Eduardo Belloso, one of the drivers, said in his statement.
Each drivers’ declaration ended with the same line:
“I was not informed that the case challenged our not receiving tips that passengers were told were included in the fare, nor was I told that, if the case was successful, there was a possibility of my being reimbursed for expenses such as a mileage reimbursement. I would like to have my expenses reimbursed should I be entitled to obtain them under the law.”
The statements don’t go as far as to say that the drivers want to be employees, however.
Lichten & Liss-Riordan claims they spoke with 50 drivers from Uber’s original testimony, and “most expressed interest in being reimbursed for their expenses by Uber.” The majority were afraid to do so officially in the court record for fear of losing their Uber app access.
In response to the filing, Uber submitted a document to the court defending its practices. “Plaintiffs’ claim that ‘Uber obtained [driver] declarations under false pretenses’ is baseless, unsupported by the handful of driver declarations Plaintiffs submitted, and rests solely on hearsay testimony from Plaintiffs’ counsel’s paralegal.”
When asked for comment on the driver testimonial reversal, Uber told Re/code, “Four hundred drivers enthusiastically came forward to provide declarations about exactly how much they value the independence and flexibility of driving with Uber. These declarations demonstrate exactly what drivers have said repeatedly: That they prefer to have flexibility, control and be their own boss.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.